Deming's Five Diseases of Management

Achieving Long-Term Success

Grass path extending into distance.

Erase these five issues in your organization
to achieve long-term success.

© iStockphoto/joebelanger

Do managers in your organization always seem to be leaving? Does your company frequently launch new initiatives before existing ones have settled in? Or, does it seem to focus too much on short-term profits, rather than on long-term success?

If you don't address issues such as these, they can seriously damage your business.

In this article, we'll look at Deming's Five Diseases of Management – five common problems that can prevent organizations from succeeding in the long term. We'll also look at strategies that you can use to cure each disease.

About the Tool

Mary Walton described Dr W. Edwards Deming's Five Diseases of Management in her 1986 book, "The Deming Management Method." Deming was a well-respected management thinker who created other influential tools, such as his 14-Point Philosophy   and Plan-Do-Check-Act  .

The Five Diseases of Management are five principles, attitudes, and behaviors that can prevent an organization from being successful in the long term. Although Deming originally developed this framework for managers in manufacturing, the model is useful for anyone in a management role.

Applying the Tool

Let's look at Deming's Five Diseases in detail, and examine what you can do to avoid or overcome each one.

Note:

Deming originally highlighted seven diseases. The two that we haven't included here are "Excessive Medical Costs" and "Excessive Costs of Warranty."

1. No Consistent Purpose

This disease appears where an organization frequently changes its strategy, management approach, or objectives, or where it doesn't define these clearly.

This means that previous strategies and initiatives don't have time to take effect before new ones are tried, meaning that a lot of energy is expended, but very little is achieved.

This can also negatively affect employees, as they find it hard to commit to their work long term. As priorities change, they can become frustrated and disillusioned, which results in low morale, low productivity, and high job turnover.

Action

If you suspect that your organization shows a lack of consistent purpose, start with...

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